Forget the high mountaintops and deserted islands, underwater hotel suites are the hot new travel trend.
With architecture and design reaching new heights, the travel industry is exploring newer ways to bring the best of luxury to consumers. This has led to several travel trends such as geodesic domes, glamping tents and more. The latest trend might be the most interesting one yet – underwater hotel suites.
That’s right, the travel industry is now taking comfort and luxury to the ocean depths, and no this isn’t about underwater activities like snorkelling or diving. It’s about actually living underwater. The idea of spending time underwater without actually being in the water has a thrill of its own, especially for those looking for a unique underwater experience that does not involve getting into the water. But is this really a new trend or are we just discovering it? And just how sustainable is building an underwater abode?
To answer some of these questions, LuxeBook spoke to a few experts at Conrad, Maldives, Rangali Island and Ozen Life Maadhoo who shed light on the design, structure and growing popularity of underwater abodes.
The underwater experience
The Maldives is one of the top destinations for a wholesome water body experience. Often presenting options like a villa on the beach or one floating on water, the Maldives beautifully incorporates water and the ocean into every guest’s travel experience. However, it is also one of the first destinations to experiment with underwater offerings.
Ozen Life Madhoo’s underwater experience involves a luxury underwater restaurant called Minus 6 Meters’ – M6m. The first underwater restaurant in South Malé Atoll, M6M also happens to be the first in the Maldives to be included in an all-inclusive plan. “It is an exquisite super-speciality underwater restaurant that combines the richness of fresh seafood with the stunning vistas of the world below the turquoise waves; which is truly a magical sight, be it day or night!” says Sajesh Kana, Resort Manager at Ozen Life Maadhoo.
While M6M gives you the best of underwater dining, another resort, Conrad Maldives Rangali Island gives you a complete underwater experience with its exquisite The Muraka suite. The world’s first undersea residence, The Muraka is spread across two levels and is equipped with three bedrooms, along with spacious living, entertaining and dining areas.
The Muraka’s upper-level features private living and dining areas which are located above water, while the master bedroom sits underwater. Guests can take the spiral staircase or elevator to reach the bedroom. A 180-degree curved acrylic dome makes for the walls of the bedroom, which overlooks the ocean, while the bathroom has floor-to-ceiling windows with a dedicated tunnel viewing
Aside from The Muraka, the hotel also has its own underwater restaurant called Ithaa, which is also the world’s first undersea restaurant located five meters below the surface of the ocean.
Speaking about the popularity of underwater facilities, Sajesh Kana shares that, “…these are what create the ‘WOW’ factor for discerning travellers today. The white sandy beaches, blue crystal waters, and aquatic life is what define the Maldives, and the underwater hotel facilities further elevate the luxury experience in the Maldives.”
At present, there are a total of nine hotels with rooms that are entirely submerged underwater. This probably answers the question about the popularity of underwater hotels and resorts. While they are fairly new, they are slowly but swiftly gaining popularity. At first, it was only the Maldives, but now a number of hotels across destinations like Dubai, China, Australia and Singapore have begun diving into the deep water for exotic travel experiences.
While the stunning views are one of the main reasons for the popularity of underwater hotels, there’s also the dialogue of a sustainable ecosystem. While one can always explore the ocean and sea through activities like diving or snorkelling, these pose a number of dangers including destroying the structure of corals causing them to go extinct. Building an underwater facility, therefore, is a better, safer and more sustainable way to live and explore the deep waters. “Underwater facilities are very popular among tourists because you get to enjoy the beauty of marine life, an experience that the guests are looking for, without causing any intrusion into the ecosystem,” Rachelle Hill, Director of Marketing & Communications at Conrad Maldives Rangali Island added.
While ensuring the safety of the corals, Hill also talks about the resort’s efforts to protect marine life. “The Muraka thrives within its environment with corals continuing to grow around the structure surrounding the underwater bedroom. The marine life too has been sustaining itself with the coral nursery built around The Muraka with the help of our resident marine biologist.”
The underwater hotels and restaurants are a beautiful sight to behold. However, it’s hard to ignore the architectural struggles of successfully designing and building these underwater wonders. The process of designing and building these projects is subsequently tougher than building a structure on land. While the design and building process is challenging, it can be expensive and difficult to maintain.
Sharing his thoughts Sajesh Kana says, “Underwater facilities are quite expensive to build and it’s also difficult to maintain them. Each venue is to be built with a proper architectural design because all the safety aspects need to be covered. Building a structure underwater needs to have a proper evaluation of the stability of the structure, the strength of the glass panels, what safety measures are taken to protect the structure from the internal current and the sand accumulation around the structure, etc. Each reef has its own difficulty to build the facility and a proper environmental study is a must before considering building it.”
Agreeably, Rachel Hill says, “Ensuring that the structure is sturdy, and 100% safe is the first and most important step when building an underwater facility.” Although there were a couple of simpler and smaller underwater structures at the time, Hill shared that the scope and size of The Muraka was a much larger project, almost 600 tonnes which made it a little more challenging. “The dream project was challenging with plenty of plumbing underwater, building a lift for access from the base to the bedroom etc. Post this, sinking the pre-made underwater bedroom structure was the most critical part of the project.”
Top underwater suites and restaurants in the world
A landmark tourist attraction – Atlantis, The Palm Dubai is a hotel that defines true Middle Eastern luxury. The hotel, an architectural wonderland, sits on a man-made, palm-tree-shaped island with lavishly designed rooms and suites. And while these are mostly located above land, the hotel decided to partake in the underwater resort trend incorporating a lavish underwater suite into its accommodations.
Keeping in line with the underwater theme, the suites are named after the Greek gods Poseidon (god of the sea) and Neptune (god of fresh water). The suites have a similar design spread across 1,776 square feet and are fitted with enormous floor-to-ceiling windows, treating guests to a magnificent view of the resort’s aquarium – The Ambassador Lagoon. A 3-million-gallon aquarium, The Ambassador Lagoon houses as many as 65,000 creatures, including rays and sharks, swimming amidst the man-made ancient ruins of the lost city of Atlantis.
If the room itself isn’t incentive enough, guests are also treated to a host of special amenities like complimentary 24-hour private butler service, airport transfers, private cabanas at the resort’s pool, beach, and water park, a free 30-minute personal training session, and 24/7 in-room dining and in-suite check-in. All of these at a price of approximately US $8,000 (depending on the season) sounds like a fair price to pay.
Wonderland is probably the best name for the architectural wonder that is this luxurious hotel in Shanghai. The hotel is built into the side of an abandoned quarry in Songjiang, the design for which was created by British design firm – Atkins, the mastermind behind the lavish Burj Al Arab Hotel in Dubai.
From afar itself, the hotel looks like something from a movie, but it’s real; it’s very real. A fascinating structure with an artificial waterfall on site, the hotel is structurally impressive. And the underwater suites add to the beauty of the place. An 18-floor hotel, two floors including about six suites, are set underwater. These are designed in a way where the bedroom overlooks the surface of the water, while the living rooms are located down under overlooking a saltwater aquarium. Outside these suites, the hotel features a public section called The Lagoon featuring an underground pool and windows looking out at the custom-built saltwater aquarium tanks. Here, guests can enjoy an entertaining water show put on by the hotel every night.
Given the exclusivity of these suites, it can be difficult to get a reservation, but that does not mean you miss out on the wholesome underwater experience. Along with the suites, the hotel also has a luxurious underwater restaurant, ironically named Mr Fisher. Here, you can indulge in some delicious seafood while surrounded by exotic aquatic life.
Another blissful underwater property in Singapore, Resorts World Sentosa offers guests a serene underwater abode built in the form of townhouses. The hotel has about eleven townhouse accommodations spread across two floors. These are divided into on land plus underwater rooms, giving guests the best of both worlds. On level two aka the on-land section, is an outdoor patio and Jacuzzi while the bedroom sits underwater on level one.
The rooms are all designed in more or less the same design, each having large floor-to-ceiling windows so guests can enjoy the blue underwater view. One of the main features of the hotel is its massive aquarium which is supposedly the world’s largest, featuring about 40,000 fish of over 800 different species including sharks, manta rays and clownfish.
Each guest staying in the underwater suites gets their own personal butler to help them around. Additionally, guests staying here also get a first-hand VIP experience of the S.E.A. Aquarium and Adventure Cove Waterpark.
Unlike most of the hotels on this list, The Manta Resort’s underwater experience includes one single room located off Pemba Island on the Zanzibar archipelago. That’s right it’s just one single room floating on water with the bedrooms sunken about 13 feet down under.
The floating room designed by Swedish engineer Mikael Genberg comprises three levels. While the bedroom sits comfortably underwater, the upper levels are fitted with a hardwood lounge, a bathroom and a sun tanning bed a relaxing experience. But if you are looking for a truly wholesome experience, then check out the resort’s Kipepeo Spa located on land.
In order to get to their hotel, guests are escorted by boat; a security guard will be anchored nearby at all times. A fun fact about the location of this unique hotel room is that the area surrounding the room has earned the nickname, the Blue Hole since it is a private lagoon in the middle of a conservation area which attracts some of the rarest species including napoleon wrasse fish, potato grouper, cubera snapper, turtles and white tip sharks. The area is a good dive site during the day. At night, the underwater room lights up on the sides so guests can enjoy the view outside even during the night.